Students scores up despite challenges, school leaders report

Student performance and wellbeing are showing improvements, despite financial difficulties.

This year’s State of the Schools event has brought some encouraging news to Oak Harbor families and staff regarding student achievement and wellbeing, although school leaders lament financial difficulties.

The event took place last Wednesday at Oak Harbor High School and was presented by Superintendent Michelle Kuss-Cybula and Assistant Superintendent Dwight Lundstrom.

Lundstrom announced that Oak Harbor students have seen significant improvements in their reading and math abilities, with higher performance than pre-pandemic. The change was particularly noticeable in the 2022-23 school year.

According to data presented at the event, in fall 2022 18% of students were two grades or more ahead in their reading capabilities, while 14% were two grades or more behind. By the end of spring, 41% of the students were two grades or more ahead and only 8% were two years or more behind.

The improvement was even greater in math. In fall 2022, 7% of students were two grades or more ahead in their math scores, which increased to 32% by spring 2023.

Lundstrom said he expects academic achievement will continue to improve in the following years.

Furthermore, 85% of students said they feel they have supportive relationships with friends, family and adults at school, while 82% said they feel they have a teacher or other adult from school who they can count on if they need help, according to the school.

Kuss-Cybula said state lawmakers have told her they have never seen a school district with such high “belonging” scores as Oak Harbor Public Schools.

This academic year, following the end of COVID relief funding, the district has been operating with a smaller budget. Expenditures, in fact, have been reduced by $5 million, according to the presentation.

Though grateful for the help from local taxpayers, Kuss-Cybula and Lundstrom showed that Oak Harbor collects less levy funds per student compared to Coupeville, South Whidbey and Anacortes.

For example, according to the information presented, Coupeville Schools collect $5,666 in levy funds per student, while Oak Harbor Schools collect $2,063 levy dollars per student. Even with the additional $1,330 in federal Impact Aid dollars per student, Oak Harbor is behind.

To ensure students succeed and have a sense of belonging, the district will continue to seek the support of local taxpayers to fund programs and services, including arts and music programs, athletics, after school programs, safety and building maintenance, special education services and more.